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CRM Development: Tailored Tech For Large Businesses

04/03/2024

CRM solutions are the backbone of any large business. Most folks will go with something like a Salesforce, HubSpot, Zoho or similar. But unfortunately in many cases, companies grow out of the features that need to be tailored to their specific needs.

In this project we set out to solve client’s unique requirements to run their University education programs that need to be secure and responsive for day to day use.

The primary challenge with the current tech stack of Salesforce + Pathify + Jotform made it an unsustainable option for long-term management. 

The three main problem criteria related to the current tech stack were:

– Customization limitations when it comes to catering to 100+ programs
– Upfront and repeat cost the apps being used – crossing 500,000USD/annum spend
– Hard to find support and resources to upkeep – seasonal needs for maintenance

Recognizing all this it was clear that we need a more flexible and cost-effective solution that is easy to maintain in the longer run. 

CRM UI screens

Base requirements for the CRM replacement

– The platform needs to support intake information for more than 10,000 students per year
– Each student will have more than 200 object/data field tied to their profiles
– Each student will have linked Parent profiles with similar level of information stored as objects
– Each student will have their dedicated notes and medical history section (needs to be HIPAA compliant)
– Each student will be required to fill out at least 5 extensive forms through a Jotform integration
– There will be multi level user access to the platform depending on campus and role type
– The platform needs to support more than 20 campuses and 100+ programs depending on cohorts, size, and types
– The platform will be accessible from the web and needs to be based on a custom framework such as MERN or MEAN

Problem and solution summaries for the CRM project

The project aimed to deliver a comprehensive and tailored CRM solution that not only addresses the shortcomings of existing systems but also introduces enhanced functionality and data security.

We adoptedDjango/Next.JS hosted on GCP, along with seamless integration with Salesforce, Pathify, and Jotform to phase out the move to the custom solution. In the current phase we will be linking the existing infrastructure with our solution with further phases to move away from all the existing service providers.

For the transition period we integrated Salesforce API via timed data exports in order to ensure that there is upto date data available for all the user profiles and object fields for the current program students.

We initially tried integrating Pathify as well to transfer over parent data but that exercise lead to a roadblock as how pathify API works did not sit well with how Salesforce data is exported. We ended up building out a plan for phase 2 in which we will replace Pathify functionality with our own solution on the user facing end.

Lastly, The solution extends to Jotform integration, where integrations were developed to track all Jotform submissions. This eradicates manual data entry, offering precise tracking of student applications. The result is a cohesive system that centralizes data, reduces redundancies, and ensures accuracy in the application tracking process.

The goal is to eventually replace Jotform for a native solution down the road.

Results from the project

The custom CRM with EMR functionalities adheres to HIPAA regulations, prioritizing data security and patient privacy. This commitment to compliance safeguards sensitive information, establishing a robust foundation for the secure handling of Electronic Medical Records.

The custom CRM with EMR functionalities delivered significant benefits, including:

– Reduced Costs: Eliminated the need for costly Salesforce subscriptions, resulting in significant cost savings.
– Increased Efficiency: Streamlined onboarding process with automated workflows and data exchange, leading to faster application processing and improved efficiency.
– Improved Data Management: Centralized data repository with secure access ensures data integrity and facilitates data-driven decision making.
– Enhanced Patient Care: EMR functionality enables access to patient medical records, facilitating better diagnosis and treatment.
–  HIPAA Compliance: Adherence to HIPAA regulations ensures the security and privacy of sensitive patient information.

Learnings from the project

Building a custom CRM for specific needs is not an easy task. Given this was one of the more complex projects I led, here are a few learnings that I can share with anyone looking to step into this space:

  • You have a lot of data to map, so mapping it out even before your design and development is very crucial – miro/lucid chart and excel sheets are your friends here.
  • Unlike most apps, you need multi user access in a CRM – the app just doesn’t have an Admin – it will require to have multiple Admin like roles on top of any user roles that will be accessing the front end. Mapping out permissions and access is important.
  • DON’T get stuck worrying about dashboarding data and reporting at start of the build process. A lot of founders make the mistake of glossing over how complex building out reporting can be when there is nothing to report on. Just stick to basic metrics and build out further reporting once the product is in use.
  • You need Web specialists, CRMs will run on the web, they need to be fast and responsive – don’t prioritize a native app over the Web (for most cases).
  • Divide up your design phase by user groups and feature workflows. Separation of designs based on what user is using the platform is really important, even before you begin development. It’s NOT as easy as ‘we will hide this section’ for user XYZ – you WILL run into errors.
  • Authentication flows are much more complicated for a CRM and need to support more methods than just email.
  • Think about white-labeling style features even if you aren’t building the CRM for commercial – having layers of features like Super Admin will make it easy to repurpose your investment into more departments if the need ever comes be.
  • And lastly, in a CRM, every module is a full fledge app – NOTHING is easy and don’t label modules as features. Need to have sales flow? The sales module is a separate app – same for support, or marketing, or anything. They are all interconnected apps rather than modules. Make this important distinction in your planning phase otherwise you will neve reach an end point.

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